TOP 19 REASONS TO OPPOSE THE WILLITS BYPASS
1. CalTrans — an agency synonymous with No Accountability. Neighbors of the bypass right of way are already complaining that whenever they ask Caltrans to make minor, no-cost adjustments the Caltrans response is: “That’s not our problem.”
2. It’s not a bypass — Without a Highway 20 interchange (removed because it was “too expensive”), less than half of traffic will be diverted around Willits — at best. And trucks going to or coming from Fort Bragg will actually spend more time in Willits with the Bypass than without it. The thing is only two lanes, one north, one south, a major accident waiting to happen.
3. Caltrans’s traffic studies are obsolete; they are based on the days when there was a logging boom and log trucks ran up and down the 101 in great numbers. Tractor Trailer traffic is way down. The 50s vintage bypass idea is not necessary. It might have been in 1950 when the idea was conceived, but it’s not 1950 anymore.
4. Local pols like Mike Thompson helped ram funding through for the Bypass although more than a hundred Willits businesses signed a petition opposing the Bypass.
5. The Bypass will sink into Little Lake Valley — In an unsuccessful attempt to allow water to flow under part of the Bypass, Caltrans will elevate almost two miles of it on pylons that are anchored in sand, gravel and silt (as documented by their own core samples). If it doesn't sink into this ooze on its own, the Big One will surely topple it.
6. Bad route — If a bypass is needed at all, it should be on the abandoned railroad right of way.
7. Too expensive — Too much money has been spent on paperwork and bad planning which has produced a project that will cost way too much and won’t do what it’s supposed to do.
8. Won’t be finished on time, and may not ever be finished given the precarious state of the economy. Because of its defective design, its extravagant cost and the limited resources available to state governments these days, there’s a very good chance that the project will stall mid-project (due to construction problems or budgetary overruns or both), leaving the traffic situation worse than it was with nothing to show for about $250 million taxpayer dollars.
9. Leaves the expense of maintaining Highway 101 through Willits to Willits. Caltrans is abandoning Willits’s “Main Street” (Highway 101) and leaving its maintenance to the struggling City of Willits. Since a lot of the traffic will still go through Willits (see item 2 above), Willits will be stuck with a maintenance load and cost that is way beyond its means.
10. Very little money for local workers and contractors. Caltrans has hired a Utah-based company to do the work. Their employees will give Willits something of an economic boost, but —
11. It’s bad for local businesses, especially during construction. During the six years or more that the construction lasts, people will avoid Downtown Willits. And if the Bypass is ever completed, surviving businesses will have to reconfigure themselves to the new traffic patterns.
12. Can’t compare to Cloverdale & Ukiah. Those bypasses were simple paving projects on flat stable ground presenting none of the unique problems presented by Little Lake Valley.
13. In spite of all of Caltrans’s expensive “mitigations,” birds and fish — both endangered and not endangered — will die off due to loss of habitat and heavy construction activity. What Caltrans calls “wetlands mitigation” is a few hundred random acres of taxpayer-purchased farmland which is not wetlands and will not become wetlands.
14. It will be unsafe. Getting to accidents on the two-lane raised viaduct will be a major problem for emergency responders.
15. Construction Hell. Dump trucks, pile drivers, and other noisy, noxious heavy equipment will fill Willits roads, sidestreets, and parking areas all over town for who knows how many years, wrecking roadbeds, snarling traffic and creating road repair problems for the City of Willits.
16. Loss of ag land. As the Farm Bureau has argued in court, a huge amount of productive farmland will be taken out of production as (ineffective) wetlands mitigation.
17. Flooding and drainage problems will be created. There’s been no independent analysis of drainage or flood patterns during or after the construction.
18. The local transportation money which could have been spent on real, focused traffic and safety improvements in Little Lake Valley has been spent on the Bypass that isn't a Bypass, and because of that those existing traffic and safety problems are and will remain unsolved.
19. There are better smaller, safer local alternatives which would produce much more tangible traffic improvements sooner for a lot less money and give a real boost to local contractors and businesses.
RAYMOND ROBERT ELLIS peacefully passed away at home in Potter Valley on January 23rd, 2013. He was born January 20th, 1927 in San Jose to Raymond and Opal Ellis. Mr. Ellis served in the US Army from 1944-1946 and graduated from UC Davis with a degree in animal husbandry. In 1987 he completed a MSW from Sacramento State University. He married his wife Rose M. Perino in San Mateo on September 6th, 1952. They moved to Potter Valley in 1956 where they operated a dairy for nine years. In 1965 he began work as a Social Worker for Mendocino County retiring in 1987. During his retirement he enjoyed volunteering in the community, singing in St. Mary's Catholic Church choir and the Civic Light Opera Association and attending his grandson's athletic events. Mr. Ellis is survived by his wife Rose and five children — Matthew and wife Linda; Jonathan and wife Terrell and three boys Gabriel, Alexander, and Zachary; Timothy and wife Kristen and daughter Lauren; Johanna “Jody” Ellis and Nathaniel and his children Hunter and Bailey. In lieu of flowers, the Ellis family requests donations to the St. Mary of the Angels St. Vincent de Paul Society or The Buddy Eller Center in Ukiah.
JOHN ARTEAGA WRITES: A few quick comments on last Sunday's Ukiah Daily Journal’s “Forum” page. First, I'm glad to see that it has finally dawned on your editorial staff that this woman who purports to own the Palace Hotel is a flake who has apparently wasted a fortune on an obviously too-far-gone dilapidated structure which, this writer has predicted for years, will eventually need to be razed. How absurd was that, holding a fundraiser for her quixotic reconstruction campaign? I mean, it would be like holding a bake sale to build the Willits bypass. What she really needed was an intervention, such as one might give a problem gambler who squanders his family's rent money.
On to the letters: those who make direct comparisons between the US budget and one's family budget demonstrate ignorance about economics. Unlike a family, the federal government can print money, or simply call it into existence with a few keystrokes. It may run counter to one's conservative nature, but time and again the history of modern economies demonstrates that the Keynesian idea of the government borrowing or printing and spending money during an economic downturn helps spark renewed growth of the economy. Conversely, as has been recently demonstrated in Europe, cutting government expenditures during a recession only serves to deepen the recession. Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has been explaining this for years, with all the charts and data in the world to back up his argument, but as with many things, hard-core conservatives (who seem to have a disproportionate influence with our government) have their minds made up on this and don't want to be confused with facts.
The other letter in Sunday's paper is a classic of paranoid gun nut hysteria; promoting an indiscriminate acceptance of all guns in order to protect ourselves from: Hitler, the Japanese, “radical Islamist jihadist camps all over America” (I haven't read about a single one myself; did the writer hear about them on Fox News?). The idea that one person with an assault rifle is going to take on the federal government, should he decide to somehow go terribly wrong, is an absurd daydream straight out of a Rambo movie. Standing up with Wayne LaPierre for one's unfettered right to own any assault weapon one chooses, along with any size magazine one can find is not brave. Gabby Gifford, tottering unsteadily to the microphone to haltingly address the Congress on the need for better gun regulation, after being shot through the head by a heavily armed madman, is brave. Hopefully, in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, Congress can be moved to buck the NRA enough to push through some rational regulation of these high-efficiency killing machines.
ON JANUARY 11, 2013, facing decades in prison on trumped up charges, my partner, Aaron Swartz, made the tragic choice to take his own life. He was only 26. Aaron's supposed crime? He was accused of checking out too many articles (4.8 million), too fast, from an online academic library called JSTOR, to which he had authorized access. He never used or distributed the articles and later returned them. For that, he faced 35 years behind bars and endured two years of relentless persecution. The outdated Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) made this tragedy possible by giving absurdly broad powers to corporations and prosecutors to criminalize an array of online activity. That includes breaching a website's terms of service — that long blast of fine print you “agree to” but never read. All of us who knew and loved Aaron never want to see anyone suffer this kind of abuse of power again. So, we're urgently calling on Congress to reform the CFAA. Please join us. Tell Congress: "Reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to remove the dangerously broad criminalization of online activity and protect us all from the abuse of corporate and prosecutorial power." (Do not forward: This link will open a page with your information already filled in.) Aaron was an innovator, entrepreneur, and social justice advocate who co-authored RSS 1.0 (the web's format for sharing and distributing content) at the age of 14, co-founded the social news website Reddit, and led the fight to stop SOPA and PIPA—the internet censorship bills. His fight to stop SOPA and PIPA started with a petition just like this one, so we know this can work. In fact, there's already been a strong, bipartisan reaction to Aaron's death and legislation is in the works to reform the CFAA right now. But it won't happen without a big public push. We can't get Aaron back, but can you help us honor his memory by signing this petition and sharing it with everyone you know? Yes, I can. Thank you for listening. — Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman
CRIME OF THE WEEK: “HELLO, 911? This is Tuck Chester. I've got a crank pipe and some tweek, so if you get out to 33000 Pacific Way right away, that's in Fort Bragg, you can probably catch me with it.”
More formally, the Sheriff's press release says “At approximately 6:46pm on Saturday, January 26, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a residence in the 33000 block of Pacific Way in Fort Bragg regarding a 911 call from that location. Upon arrival, Deputies made contact with Tucker Chester, 29, of Fort Bragg after he had driven to the location just after Deputies arrived. During the contact Chester admitted to accidentally making the 911 call. Deputies had knowledge that Chester was on active felony probation with a search and seizure term and also determined that Chester was driving a motor vehicle while his driver's license was suspended/revoked. Deputies conducted a probation search and ultimately found Chester in possession of a glass pipe used to ingest methamphetamine, approximately 3.0 grams (gross field weight) of concentrated cannabis and 1.6 grams (gross field weight) of what field-tested presumptive positive for methamphetamine. Chester was arrested and transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked on the listed charges and was to be held in lieu of $10,000 bail."
JEFF COSTELLO COMMENTS: It is worth noting that the NRA consistently uses the somewhat quaint Hollywood movie terms “good guys and bad guys” in their ongoing appeal for a paranoid armed-to-the-teeth society.
And since Wayne La Pierre looks for all the world like the sadistic Ronald Lacey nazi character in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” a classic movie villain or Bad Guy if there ever was one, we would do well to think about who's kidding who here, or better yet, who really is who.
THE MENDOCINO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT announced Wednesday that a woman smoking a cigarette outside her home in Gualala suffered a severe eye injury when she was struck by shotgun pellets fired in the direction of the home. A description of the car from which the shotgun was fired led Sonoma County deputies to the Kashia reservation at Stewarts Point where they arrested Lamont Salgado, 18, and Christopher Ochoa, 21, and took a .20-gauge shotgun from them. The 39-year-old victim was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and has not been identified. She'd been standing outside the home a little after 10pm when a white car passed by and someone fired four to five shotgun rounds in her direction. Salgado and Ochoa were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy and booked into the Mendocino County Jail.
FROM THE PRESS DEMOCRAT'S comment line:
• Sean Gee, Waterboarding & Interrogation Instructor at Norcal Crime Labs INC: It wasn't attempted murder. The investigation (so far) has shown that the suspects fired at the parked car, of which they thought there were no occupants (there weren't). The victim was hit as a result of the scattering nature of the shotgun shells used. I do agree though, throw (any possible) book at these kids.
• Jackie Barthew: What a couple of idiots. Someone whistled at them and now they must take out their revenge by doing a drive by on someone's car. They need a good long time in jail and some community service.
• Gustavo Barragan: Point Arena High School. They need to go to prison for a long and these stupid kids were drunk worthless.
Kenneth Aaron. The Mendonoma Coast and its' Denizens Certainly have their share of Drama.
• Eric David Lotter, Special Education Teacher at Anova: I worked with Lamont at Point Arena High School for a while. Nice kid but getting involved in gangs and not showing up to school. Yes, he is from the reservation. The gangs, I believe are an outside influence, not centered in the reservation.
SAD NEWS: Debra De Graw of the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center writes:
“Dear Chamber Members, it is with heartfelt sadness that I write to you about the passing of one of our members. I was contacted yesterday by Colleen Murphy’s sister in Minnesota and asked to let the membership know that her sister was positively identified as the person found recently, two miles east of Fort Bragg. Many of you had been patrons of Chapter and Moon restaurant and knew the owner, Colleen Murphy. Some of you know how much she missed Gary who passed last year. Colleen was a quiet and private person. It is sad that she is gone, but as one member said to me, “She is at peace now.” I know she is right and choose to imagine that she and Gary are together again, maybe having a glass of their favorite beverage. With that said, perhaps this is a little reminder to give an extra hug to someone you care about today. To be grateful for the ones we love and have in our lives. As a friend once said to me, “Go out and spread sunshine, you never know who might really need it.”
(Ed note: Ms. Murphy’s remains were discovered by a hiker on Saturday, January 13, 2013 near the Skunk Train railroad tracks about two miles east of Fort Bragg. At the time the Sheriff’s Office said they had “reason to believe the remains are of a missing person who appeared to have disappeared voluntarily within the last few months from the Fort Bragg area.”
ACCORDING TO CAMUS
Between our squinchy, squally birth
Before the silent stare of death,
The aim of life, or what it’s worth,
Confounds us to our dying breath.
Best guesses ever since the Word
In fact boil down to what’s absurd.
— John Wester
POINT CABRILLO LIGHT STATION State Historic Park offers a variety of volunteer opportunities: in the 1909 Light House, with Whale Festival (March 2-3 and 16-17, 2013), lead tours of the 300 acre State Historic Park, interpret Marine Science, help in the office with data entry and volunteer record keeping, or show off and interpret the history of the First Assistant Light Keeper’s Home.
• East House - Training/Refresher — Saturday, February 9th, 10am to 12 noon. Learn the history, restoration and stories of those that lived and worked at Point Cabrillo. Meet at The First Assistant Light Keeper’s House Museum (East House). Contact: Ginny Wade at email@example.com Kevin Williams 707-397-5181 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Lens Tour Docent - Training/Refresher — Saturday February 9th, 1pm to 3pm. Learn how the 3rdOrder Fresnel Lens, Federal Aid to Navigation functions and how to help with lens tours, a significant source of income for Point Cabrillo! Meet at the Lighthouse. Contact: Steve Nilson. email@example.com.
THE MENDOCINO COUNTY FIRE SAFE COUNCIL Invites you to participate in a Forum on Saturday, February 23rd from 11AM to 2PM at the CAL Fire Headquarters between Willits and Ukiah. Food and beverages will be provided. Please bring members of your community who might be interested in helping us develop the tools we need to create a lasting and meaningful impact in our wildfire-prone environment. The tentative agenda is attached, guest speakers will be Chief Chris Rowney of the CAL Fire Mendocino Unit and Jeff Tunnel of the Bureau of Land Management For more information call us at 462-3662 Best Regards, De-Anne Hooper Mendocino County Fire Safe Council 564 S. Dora St, Suite A4 Ukiah, CA 95482 707-462-3662 firstname.lastname@example.org www.firesafemendocino.org
FLOODGATE FARM is expanding the permaculture orchard up on Laughlin Peak in Redwood Valley, and we are having work parties to get the trees planted before the next rains. You can enjoy the great views while getting a workout creating diverse plantings. We will feed you dinner too! We'll be at it from 9 AM until 5 PM all 3 days: Sunday Feb. 3, Monday the 4th and Tuesday the 5th. If you want to come or have questions, please call us at 707-272-1688. Please RSVP so we can give you directions and gate codes. Any arrivals before 3 PM are welcome; just let us know when to expect you. Salad University is returning from winter hibernation for a late winter/early spring Secrets of Floodgate Farm Salad Mix class on Sunday March 10 from 2 until 5 PM. We will sample the early spring greens, discuss medicinal properties of the plants, and enjoy a potluck that includes salad, kimchi, a main dish, and whatever participants bring to share. Cost of the class is $20, which includes informational handouts and seeds. The class takes place at Floodgate Farm on Laughlin Peak in Redwood Valley, convenient to the US 101 freeway. To reserve your space in the class, please email email@example.com, call 707-272-1688, or send a check to Bill Taylor, P.O. Box 848, Ukiah CA 95482. Lastly, in the vein of our salad mix, Jaye Alison Moscariello and Bill Taylor will host the February 18 Farm and Garden Show on KZYX from 1-2 PM. Our guest will be John Kallas, PhD, author of _Edible Wild Plants_ . This comprehensive guide covers just 15 plants, but does so very thoroughly so readers can indentify them and look-alikes, know at what stages various parts are best, and how to cook with them. The show can be heard live at 90.7 or 91.5 FM, at kzyx.org. This show will be archived for later listening as has been done with past shows which can be found at kzyx.org.
The Warbler Blocks The Willits Bypass?
by Will Parrish
CalTrans got the go-ahead on January 15th to begin “vegetation removal” on its Highway 101 Bypass route through Little Lake Valley, courtesy of a California Department of Fish and Game memorandum signed by North Coast District Manager Neil Manji. The letter effectively states that CalTrans crews are free to excavate plants and chainsaw trees as long as they leave the stumps in place, being that the trees' roots help prevent soil from washing off of hillsides into streams.
By January 17th, CalTrans Senior Resident Engineer Geoffrey T. Wright (who recently got a new office in Willits, at 300 East Valley Rd., in anticipation of finally beginning construction of the freeway) was touting in a letter to the California State Water Resources Control Board that he expected “a start date of +/- January 28.” All the agency still required by that point was final written permission from the Army Corp of Engineers to fire up the chainsaws. In the letter to the State Water Board, Wright said he expected to receive that permission within a week.
Part of CalTrans' impetus for fast-tracking destruction of the oak woodlands that span much of the proposed freeway construction area's broad six-mile band through Willits is the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibit removal of trees with documented bird nesting habitat from February 1st through September 30th. This past Wednesday, January 23rd, CalTrans crews were out surveying creek banks in Willits to designate the specific places where their chainsaws would cut and their excavators would scrape within the ensuing week.
CalTrans officials are especially antsy to begin cutting in the prospective superhighway's Southern Interchange Area, which runs along Haehl Creek beginning less than a mile southeast of the Walker Rd. entrance from Highway 101. This area features an extensive area of blue and black oak trees, mixed with ponderosa pines and madrones, many of which reside on a hillside CalTrans plans to excavate to use as fill material to build its 20-foot-high freeway. An immediate priority for the agency is to widen its temporary road there, which it uses to haul construction supplies to various project areas.
There is one notable local bird species, however, that the CalTrans bureaucracy, as well as other members of the transportation-industrial complex who are peddling this project, could not have accounted for.
The Warbler, a charming and hard-working 24-year-old goat and vegetable farmer who lives in the Willits Valley, scaled a large ponderosa pine tree in the Bypass Southern Interchange area in the wee morning hours of January 28th in an effort to block sawing of the trees. She is nesting there, so to speak, in a plywood platform fixed roughly 35 feet above ground on a pair of sturdy branches that extend out evenly from the tree's central trunk. The tree has been dubbed “Liberty Ponderosa” by some of the tree-sit's supporters.
The Warbler has pledged to maintain her tree-sit as long as it remains an effective way of staving off CalTrans' construction plans. Around 60 supporters rallied at the base of tree from approximately 9 a.m. to noon this past Monday. They plan to maintain all-day vigils at the base of tree, and they are using the visibility of the action to mobilize further opposition against the Bypass' imminent construction.
During the rally, Willits resident Rosamand Crowder provided a thorough overview of the Bypass' current status among the various regulatory agencies, which I will reprint at the end of this article.
It is tragically ironic that CalTrans is attempting to cut trees as soon as possible based to some degree on a federal law designed to protect migratory birds. Migratory birds depend on wetlands for habitat during their travels. Little Lake Valley begot its name from the fact that it is naturally an extensive wetland area. That made it historically a significant part of the Southern Flyway bird migration route.
CalTrans’ permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to fill in the marshes of Little Lake, located on the northern end of the valley, is the largest wetlands fill permit the Army Corps has granted the transportation agency for a project in Northern California in more than half a century.
According to the project’s Environmental Impact Review, it will take five years to dewater, fill in, and piledrive the Little Lake marsh area to make it suitable for the 20-to-30-foot-high concrete viaduct structure it is constructing above the area. The dewatering will come courtesy of so-called “wick drains”: metal polls up to 85-feet long that are specially engineered to suck moisture out of the ground. CalTrans’ contractors will drill the polls into the ground at five foot intervals, a total of 50,000 of the polls sticking down into the earth in all.
In an online post responding to my first Anderson Valley Advertiser piece about the Bypass two weeks ago, CalTrans Public Information Officer Phil Frisbie, Jr., claimed that “dewatering will not occur using 85′ long pipes drilled into the soil; just the areas excavated to install piers will be dewatered in order to pour concrete.”
However, after being confronted with the fact that the wick drain method is openly discussed in CalTrans' own Environmental Impact Report for the project, Frisbie, Jr. wrote in response, “I just received some details about the wickdrains. They are indeed hollow tubes inserted deep into the soil. However, there is no pumping; they simply allow the weight of the soil to squeeze out excess water which allows the soil to settle faster.”
Remarkably, he then claimed: “This does not change the groundwater level.” He also helpfully provided a link to the wick drain subcontractor's website: http://www.hbwickdrains.com/WhatWeDo/WickDrains/default.aspx
As for The Warbler, her action has already greatly invigorated the effort to oppose the Bypass. Sitting in a cafe in Willits while working on this article, I overheard numerous excited conversations about the tree sit in the course of a few hours. People affiliated with Earth First! are busy tabling throughout the day at Mariposa Market. Visitors come and go from the tree sit area, many of them shouting words of encouragement to The Warbler, or trying to catch a smile or wave from her from her platformed.
The Warbler is handling all of the attention with remarkable grace, which is entirely unsurprising to those who know her. On the night of January 27th, as she gathered her belongings in preparation for living 35 feet up in a pine tree for an indefinite period, she even stopped to express concern about whether she was being a polite host for some of the people who were visiting the farm.
Among the notable items The Warbler brought into the tree are a few dozen bags of Celestial Seasonings herbal tea and about eight books, including several she checked out recently from The Willits Library. One of them is The Legacy of Luna by Julia Butterfly Hill. She plans to use this break from milking goats and tending vegetable gardens to catch up on her reading.
“These might be really overdue,” she said regarding the library books. “I hope the librarians understand.”
One of the major challenges of the tree-sit is the shrill sound of Highway 101 traffic, which courses past at an uneven rhythm both night and day. By mid-afternoon on the first day, The Warbler reported that the swaying of the tree's branched in the wind was causing her to feel sick to her stomach.
One of the Celestial Seasonings teas she brought with her into the tree is Tension Tamer, the box description of which reads: “This comforting blend begins with eleuthero, an Asian herb popular for centuries because of the sense of calm and well being it imparts. We've added cooling peppermint, spicy ginger and tangy lemons to create a remarkably uplifting herbal blend. Bring harmony to your day with a cup of this flavorful and restorative tea.”
As of this writing, The Warbler reports feeling strong and able to sustain herself in the platform for the long-haul. She has been receiving a steady stream of support from friends, loved ones, and admirers in the area. For information on supporting the tree sit, visit www.savelittlelakevalley.org.
Status of the Willits Bypass Pending Lawsuit:
Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers are being sued by the Willits Environmental Center (WEC), the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the Mendocino Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Farm Bureau.
Because they have limited resources the plaintiffs had to choose which court and which agencies to sue based on the strongest case they could make. They chose Federal Court. They chose to sue the ACE on a Clean Water Act (CWA) claim and Caltrans on a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) claim. Other agencies (National Marine Fisheries NMFS, Fish and Wildlife Service FWS) including state agencies (Department of Fish and Game DFG, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Water Board) may not be following the law either but the plaintiffs had to choose.
The CWA suit declares that the Army Corps approved a project that would severely impact wetlands and “other waters” (creeks and streams) when there were practical and reasonable alternatives. These alternatives were in-town solutions and/or a 2-lane expressway that did not go through the wetlands, for instance along the railroad corridor. It also alleges that as voluminous as the mitigation plan is, it still does not achieve “No Net Loss” of wetlands and other violations.
The NEPA suit declares that there were major changes to the project since the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR ’06). Most notably the projected increases in traffic are not happening and the bypass is obscenely overbuilt. Other changes include the huge amount of mitigation required for such a destructive project that includes taking land out of agricultural production and other offenses. Caltrans should write a new FEIR.
The lawsuit is scheduled to be heard on June 7, 2013.
The plaintiffs were denied a “Preliminary Injunction” which would have delayed construction until after the suit was heard. At this point the only hold up to beginning construction is that the permits issued on the project were “conditional” and Caltrans has not met all the conditions.
The Permits and Their Status:
• ACE: 404 Permit, required by the CWA. Issued 2/16/12 with conditions. References a Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (MMP) that is separate from the one the Water Board is using. One of the conditions of the permit is that the mitigation plan be funded. They can accept documentation that ensures a “high level of confidence” that the money for mitigation will be allocated. Currently they appear to be questioning Caltrans’s “assurances.” The California Transportation Commission (CTC who funds Caltrans) will be asked to vote to fund the mitigation in May ’13. Another condition is that all the conditions of the 401 Permit are met. Call Dave Wickens (415) 503-6988, and his boss Jane Hicks (415) 503-6771, to provide feedback.
• Water Board: 401 Permit, required by the state and the CWA, issued 8/6/10. Less than a month after it was issued Caltrans violated the permit and again the next spring. The permit references a Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (MMP) that has been substantially revised and is not finalized yet. 90 days before “vegetative removal or ground disturbing activities” Caltrans was to complete conditions 15 & 16 (appoint a land manager and finalize money for mitigation) This has not been done and in December 2012 the Water Board gave Caltrans until April 15, 2013 to comply and approved beginning construction. Call Brendan Thompson 576-2065 and Catherine Kuhlman to provide feedback.
• DFG: 1600, Stream Alteration Agreement and 2081 Incidental Take Permit (ITP). These are state required permits issued in March and June of 2010. These are both conditional permits with numerous deadlines. A number of conditions specify that “no vegetative removal or ground disturbing activities” may take place until the condition has been met. Caltrans did not get the jobs done so they are currently in violation of these permits. Caltrans has applied to amend the permits but that process is not complete. Meanwhile on 1/15/13 DFG issued a letter giving Caltrans permission to start “vegetative removal” anyway. Call: JoAnn Dunn (707) 441-2076 and her boss Neil Manji (530) 225-2300 to provide feedback.